Dental Fear – Prevalence and Ways to Combat It

Dorina Stan, Dragos F. Voicu


The fear of the dentist, dental anxiety and dental phobia continue to concern the medical world, seeking to elucidate the causes, calculate the prevalence and its implications on the oral health of the population, as well as identify the most effective methods to combat it. The survey included 208 patients, who were treated and investigated, in the period 2018-2019. The questionnaire consisted of 15 questions, structured in 3 sections: socio-demographic data, oral hygiene habits and past experience, during dental treatment, with analysis of dental anxiety, using modified MDAS.

The mean value of MDAS in the study group was 11.7 ± 4. Most of the respondents (80%) had medium or low dental anxiety. High levels of anxiety were observed in 20% of patients, including 12% with dental phobia. A statistically significant correlation was found between the mean values of the MDAS and sex (p = 0.030), age (p <0.0005), place of residence (p = 0.016), socioeconomic status (p = 0.040), subjective assessment of oral health (p <0.0005), frequency of dental appointments (p <0.0005) and negative dental experiences in the past (p <0.0005). No correlation was observed between anxiety, education, or habits related to oral hygiene. As methods of combating dentist fear, it resorted, somehow differentiated and personalized, to progressive muscle relaxation techniques, desensitization and cognitive behavioral therapy, the therapeutic act being carried out in a "tell-show-do" manner. These applied methods have meant the extension of the working time, but without additional costs. We consider our experience in using them as positive, with stable results and with increasing efficiency over time.

Our study shows that most of the respondents were without any special fear of dental treatment, one in five patients had a high level of anxiety, and one in ten suffered from dental phobia. Middle-aged women seem to have higher rates of dental anxiety, compared to men.

Practitioners need to be aware of the common occurrence of fear, in order to combat it being required knowledge of behavioral psychology and, first of all, establishing a relationship based on trust with the patient, from the beginning.


dental fear; prevalence; cognitive behavioral therapy

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